Ryan, BC prove to be buzz saw against Georgia Tech
ATLANTA - Any doubters now?
For three weeks, coach Jeff Jagodzinski had as many questions about his football team as those who asked whether the Eagles should be considered contenders for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
There were questions about the running game, about some dropped passes, about the inconsistency in the passing game despite the presence of quarterback Matt Ryan.
The questions were there, even after impressive wins over Wake Forest, the defending ACC champion, and North Carolina State.
Going into last night's game against 15th-ranked Georgia Tech, Jagodzinski said that in his mind the Eagles still had to prove themselves.
But with a crowd of 51,112 and a national prime-time audience looking on, the Eagles put on a show. They not only established themselves as contenders for the ACC crown, but Ryan put himself into the Heisman Trophy picture.
The Eagles built a 21-0 lead in the third quarter, then rode it out for a 24-10 victory, leaving little doubt as to who was the better team.
"That's as impressive a victory as any I've been around here," said BC director of football operations Barry Gallup as the Eagles made their way out of the locker room to head home on what was surely a jubilant charter flight back to Boston.
Few people would argue with him as Ryan completed 30 of 44 passes for a career-high 435 yards and one touchdown, clearly establishing his Heisman credentials.
On the defensive side, there was also a feeling of satisfaction after Tech was shut out for three quarters and limited to 267 yards overall.
Georgia Tech managed to get on the scoreboard with a touchdown in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
"A great game plan by [defensive coordinator Frank] Spaziani," said linebacker Jolonn Dunbar.
Georgia Tech had been overwhelming in its first two games, averaging 51 points and 439 yards, while running back Tashard Choice was flashing his own Heisman credentials. But last night Choice was a nonfactor. He left in the third quarter with a tight hamstring after managing only 31 yards on 15 carries, stopping his streak of 100-yard games at nine straight.
After three straight ACC games, the Eagles (3-0) get to go home for three straight nonconference games, against Army, Massachusetts, and Bowling Green.
"This is a special group," said Jagodzinski.
"It was a great team win. Tonight was a pretty balanced deal."
Leading the way was Ryan, as cool as his "Matty Ice" nickname, as he calmly handled a blitz package sent at him from the get-go.
Ryan took the Eagles on a textbook first-quarter march, going 95 yards in 11 plays, with L.V. Whitworth ending it with a 1-yard run.
The Eagles expanded their lead to 14-0 on a five-play, 79-yard drive that was finished on a 39-yard pass to Brandon Robinson, who simply had to hold out his hands in the left corner of the end zone as Ryan threaded the ball to him.
"Matt's maturity level is as good as any QB I've been around," said Jagodzinski.
"The game slows down for him. He doesn't get rattled about anything that he does."
Ryan tried to keep it all in perspective, taking the schedule one game at a time, although that will be hard to do considering the nonconference opposition.
"I thought, as a team, we played pretty well," said Ryan. "It's a really good win, but there is so much more work to be done. We're going to enjoy it tonight. But its only the first part of the season.
"We threw it well, we ran it well. We stepped up and made plays."
That they did. All night long and now they are 3-0, with three ACC victories.
"They're a good team and we'll be seeing them again in Jacksonville [for the ACC championship game,]" said Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett.
Which would be more than fine with Boston College.